Article by Wendy McCance
The last few years have been painful. My husband and I both lost our jobs at an auto plant due to the factory closing. We lost our home and our retirement savings trying to stay afloat. We were like a million other people who had been hit incredibly hard by the downturn in the economy.
Picking up the pieces and starting fresh was difficult and challenging. We tried to look at the bright spot. This was our chance to fix past choices and go after the careers that we really wanted. All of those years working in the plant gave us a fabulous income and lifestyle, but dissatisfaction in what we did for a living. There were many discussions about what we would have done if we had started over and cruelly, we got our wish.
These past few years we have seen what we thought was the lowest point we could hit, only to face a lower point down the road. We are both now in jobs we love, honestly our dream jobs. The amount of money we are making has been slowly increasing. The problem is that we still feel like we are drowning.
We don’t have any debt other than an incredibly small mortgage. We have no car payments or credit card bills. Yet, because we were barely making it, the most basic bills are now suffocating us. There are late fees and bounced check fees. We had a crappy accountant years ago and now owe thousands of dollars from taxes from 2006 because the accountant messed up on our taxes. The interest for the mistake has costed us thousands of dollars.
My husband and I have gotten creative with the money coming in and know that within a few months we should feel some relief. In the mean time, we are still panicked about playing catch up and are scraping by the best we can.
I have spent a lot of time trying to look at the bright side. We have a roof over our head, we have food in the house and two cars that are working. We are in a safe neighborhood and the kids go to a great school. I worry about the other families that were hit by the downturn in the economy. How are they doing? Do they have a job, a house or food? Do their kids have what they need?
This brings me to my thoughts on the beginning of the school year. It is extremely expensive for kids to get ready for school. School supplies alone can be outrageous. My kids are finally out of the elementary school, and financially, I am relieved. Not only were the school supplies at least a full page long, but then you had to pay some money towards classroom parties, PTA, school pictures and gym uniforms. Honestly, for us, some things were skimped on. We haven’t been able to afford school pictures (for example).
This year my oldest daughter had to pay for a school planner given out by the school which was mandatory (your grade is knocked down if you don’t have it). She had to send in money for her senior party and a few other things. Basically, the check was $85.00 and we didn’t even join the PTA. This was just the school bill for one child and I have three children.
How do people in worse shape than our family make sure their children have locks for lockers (I needed to buy 6 locks so each child would have a lock for their school locker and gym locker). What about shoes, clothes, jackets etc… It scares me to think about parents barely scrapping by, and having the stress of paying all of that money just to get their kids off to a new school year.
My biggest worry always lands on how these kids feel. Do they know their parents are struggling? Do they feel safe, secure and well taken care of? Do they wonder how they will get a school lunch or have shoes that fit for gym class?
I know that times have been tough on my family. We are getting through it and the best part for us has been that the our kids have a strong understanding of the importance of a solid education and what it means to have a college degree. They understand that if you don’t take your future seriously, it might haunt you financially down the road (neither my husband nor I had more than an Associate Degree). Finally they truly know the importance of saving your money instead of spending frivolously. These lessons have been so important for my kids to learn. I know that their futures will be much brighter than my very own was because of this.
I hope that these other families who are struggling so hard to take care of their children have kids who feel loved and are determined to create something better for themselves when they grow up.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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